FIRE SAFETY AROUND YOUR HOME
There are many things that you can do to protect you and your family from the potentially devastating events that can occur because of a fire in your home.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency three out of every four people that die in a structure fire do so because of smoke inhalation. Year after year national statistics indicate that over 70 percent of all fires and the vast majority of civilian casualties occur in residences.
Smoke detectors should be installed on every floor of your home and especially just outside of the door where you or other family members sleep. Smoke detectors are certainly an inexpensive, modern marvel that can save our lives, but there are a few things that we need to do to keep them working properly. Check your smoke detectors at least once a month. To test them, be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions for all the details. There is a button on the detector that you can push to check the battery. It is recommended that you change the battery in the detector when it is necessary to set our clocks for time changes in the fall and the spring. The detectors give out a chirping sound if the battery has run down. If you hear the chirping sound, the battery should be replaced immediately. Keep the detector clean and free of dust so that it can work properly.
Some smoke detectors are wired directly into alarm systems and do not have a battery in the unit. If you have this kind, check to see if the little light on it blinks, which indicates that the detector is operational.
They even have inexpensive smoke detectors for the hearing impaired, so there is really no excuse not to have this type of protection.
A fire extinguisher is another item that is wise to have around your home, especially in your kitchen and garage. Fire extinguishers are classified according to the type of fires on which they can be used. When you purchase an extinguisher for you home, make sure that it is an ABC type. This means that the extinguisher may be used on Class A fires - ordinary combustibles like wood, paper, clothes, etc., Class B fires - flammable liquids, like grease, gasoline, etc., and Class C fires - fire in electrical appliances. The extinguishers have icons on them which show the types of fires on which they can safely be used. You must remember that if the fire is of such intensity that an extinguisher may put you in harms way to GET OUT of the house or garage and STAY OUT and find another place to call 9-1-1.
Be careful of grease fires that occur in a skillet on your stove when using a fire extinguisher since you can spread the fire if you apply the agent at the wrong angle. If it is a small fire you might be able to smother it with a pot cover or something similar.
Have a Plan of Escape
If you live with other people or family members, you should have a plan in case of a fire. Even if you live alone you should have at least two means of escape in case of a fire.
Draw out a floor plan of your home and have at lease two ways you and others can get out of every room. If you have a two story home, there are inexpensive escape ladders that can be purchased to give you that second way out.
Go over the plan with your family and have a definite place to meet outside if there is a fire. This will give you a chance to determine if everyone is out and safe. Do not go back into the burning home. Have your family members stick together and call the fire dept. from another location.
Keep your stairs and hallways clear of items that may impede you if you are in a hurry to get out.
Do not overload electrical receptacle. Make sure that you properly turn off your iron and do not leave it on on the ironing board while you are not present.
Have your air conditioner and heating units checked at the start of each season by qualified service technicians or anytime that they appear to be malfunctioning.
Do not store unnecessary items in your attic or closets that could catch fire or cause a large fire.
Space heaters are very dangerous if used improperly. Stay away from them with loose fitting clothes, and keep bedding and other material safely away from them.
If you have a fireplace, have it inspected and cleaned at the start of the winter season. Use spark arrestors to prevent sparks from starting a fire on your roof. When you light the fire in the fireplace, be sure to strike the match first and then turn on the gas.
Just using common sense will go a long way to protect you and your family.
Here are other things you should be aware of:
Don't store newspapers, rags, or other combustible materials near a furnace, hot water heater, space heater, etc.
Don't leave space heaters operating when you're not in the room.
Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that might burn, including the wall.
Don't use extension cords with electrical space heaters. The high amount of current they require could melt the cord and start a fire.
Never use a gas range as a substitute for a furnace or space heater.
Under some circumstances, dangerous levels of heat can build up in a dryer.
Never leave home with the clothes dryer running.
Dryers must be vented to the outside, not into a wall or attic.
Clean the lint screen frequently to keep the airway clear.
Never put in synthetic fabrics, plastic, rubber, or foam because they retain heat.
It is better not to use extension cords. If you feel you must use one, make sure that it is not frayed or worn. Do not run it under a rug or twist it around a nail or hook.
Never overload a socket. In particular, the use of "octopus" outlets - outlet extensions that accommodate several plugs - is strongly discouraged.
Do not use light bulb wattage which is too high for the fixture. Look for the label inside each fixture which tells the maximum wattage.
Check periodically for loose wall receptacles, loose wires, or loose lighting fixtures. Sparking means that you've waited too long.
Allow air space around the TV to prevent overheating. The same applies to plug-in radios, stereo sets, and to powerful lamps.
If a circuit breaker trips or a fuse blows frequently, immediately cut down on the number of appliances on that line.
Be sure all electrical equipment bears the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.
In many older homes, the capacity of the wiring system has not kept pace with today's modern appliances. Overloaded electrical systems invite fire. Watch for these overload signals: dimming lights when an appliance goes on, a shrinking TV picture, slow heating appliances, or fuses blowing frequently. Call a qualified electrician to get expert help.
Careless cooking is the number one cause of residential fires. Never leave cooking unattended.
It's wise to have a fire extinguisher near the kitchen. Keep it 10 feet away from the stove on the exit side of the kitchen.
Never pour water on a grease fire; turn off the stove and cover the pan with a lid, or close the oven door.
Keep pot handles on the stove pointing to the back, and always watch young children in the kitchen.
Don't store items on the stove top, as they could catch fire.
Keep kitchen appliances clean and in good condition, and turn them off and disconnect them when not in use.
Don't overload kitchen electrical outlets and don't use appliances with frayed or cracked wires.
Wear tight-fitting clothing when you cook. Here's why: An electrical coil on the stove reaches a temperature of 800 degrees. A gas flame goes over 1,000 degrees. Your dish towel or pot holder can catch fire at 400 degrees. So can your bathrobe, apron, or loose sleeve. Be sure your stove is not located under a window in which curtains are hanging.
Clean the exhaust hood and duct over the stove regularly, and wipe up spilled grease as soon as the surface of the stove is cool.
Operate your microwave only when there is food in it.
Children and Grandchildren
One-fourth of all fire-deaths of children are from fires started by children.
Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
Never leave children unattended with fire or space heaters.
Children are naturally curious about fire, so keep an eye on them. But if a child repeatedly plays with fire or seems to have a morbid fascination with fire, seek professional help at once.
If youngsters live with you or stay overnight occasionally, be sure that they know how to escape from every room and are part of your emergency exit plan.
Gasoline and Other Flammable Liquids
Flammable liquids should be stored only in approved safety containers, and the containers should be kept outside of the house and garage in a separate storage shed.
Gas up lawn mowers and edgers outside away from enclosed areas and any source of sparks or heat.
Start the equipment 10 feet from where you filled it with fuel.
Don't fill a hot lawn mower or any motor - let it cool first.
Never clean floors or do other general cleaning with gasoline or flammable liquids.
Never smoke while in bed or napping on a sofa.
Don't smoke when you are drinking or are abnormally tired.
Use large, deep ashtrays, and empty them frequently.
Never dump an ashtray into the trash without wetting the butts and ashes first.
Attic Exhaust Fans
If you have electrical attic exhaust fans, have them checked often to be sure they are working properly.
Your Address Numbers
Your address number should be sufficiently visible so your location can quickly be found in an emergency.
Do all you can to keep you and your family safe from fire!